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Findings that shed new light on the possible pathogenesis of a disease or an adverse effect
Fatal encephalopathy after an isolated overdose of cocaine
  1. D Kondziella1,
  2. E R Danielsen2,
  3. P Arlien-Soeborg1
  1. 1
    Department of Neurology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2
    Department of Radiology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. D Kondziella, daniel_kondziella{at}


Cocaine induced brain damage can be divided into primary neurotoxic effects causing toxic encephalopathy, secondary effects of compromised cerebral blood flow in ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke, cerebral vasculitis and vasospasm, and tertiary effects due to hypoxia as a result of cardiopulmonary collapse. Toxic leucoencephalopathy mainly affects white matter (WM) tracts serving higher cerebral function, thereby leading to altered personality, attention deficits and memory impairment in mild cases and to dementia, coma and brain death in severe cases. Here we describe the case of a 21-year-old man who committed suicide by injecting cocaine. The cocaine induced a toxic leucoencephalopathy, which was proven at autopsy.

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  • Competing interests: none.

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